I have an ongoing hate relationship with the United States Postal Service. For the last few years it has been nothing but failure after failure. Not only have important documents – like passports – mysteriously disappear into the USPS void causing me much trouble but my business suffers as well. I have been trying to transition customers away from mailing checks to paying online with credit cards.
As a business owner, my business fundamentally relies on customers making their payments. Accepting payments via credit cards costs me additional money in credit card processing fees. Additionally, some customers are reluctant to pay business expenses via credit cards because their accounts payable is setup to mail checks. But mailed checks relies on the U.S. Postal Service, which just sucks.
It got so bad that I opened a post office box to eliminate one potential lost mail leg of the checks’ journey to me. By using a post office box for my incoming checks, I eliminated one mailman’s possibility of losing my check.
But the problem not only persists but it is getting much worse.
Right now, I am dealing with a lost credit card in the mail. It was sent to me to replace an expiring card. The problem is that I don’t know if the credit card is lost in the mail or is so significantly delayed that I should wait a few more days to see if it arrives.
By “significantly delayed” I’m writing that a half a month is not long enough to wait for my mail to arrive.
Case in point.
Last month my company had to send “service termination” notices to several long-time clients because we had not received their payments. We send two reminders before we send the “termination notices”.
Our problem, as a company, is that we cannot afford to wait too long before we act on delinquent accounts. As a service provider we bleed money each day providing our customers with services. Each day that a client does not pay we must absorb the cost of providing the service to them. To remain agile and offer low fees for our services we must be hyper-vigilant on our clients’ paying their bills.
We generally markup our prices between 10 and 15% of the cost. That means that for every day that we provide a service to a client represents about 85 to 90% of what they pay for that service. Without payment it soon becomes unsustainable. Add the cost of sending reminders or paying credit card fees causes our revenues to drop as a result. Rising prices is not a simple answer because my company competes against low-cost providers like Amazon or GoDaddy.
Between the “check is in the mail” to account payable clerks on vacation to simply holiday distractions we must decide how long is too long to wait for payment. Keep in mind that we must balance our need to collect payments from our customers with not alienating our clients in the process.
It is a delicate balance we must keep.
When a client says the “check is in the mail” we must decide whether to accept the statement as fact.
The post office makes this very difficult for us.
On December 20, 2019 a client told is their check was mailed that day.
Our policy is to wait five days before we assume the check is not in the mail.
On December 26 we looked, and the check had not arrived. We added an additional day for the holiday.
I made the decision to wait another five days for the “check in the mail”.
On January 2, 2020, I ordered that the client’s services be turned off.
The client was furious with me, but I had to make the hard decision to stop the service bleeding on my company’s wallet.
On January 4, 2020 we received the client’s check at our PO box.
Looking at the post office stamp, the client, had indeed, mailed their check on December 20 as they told my accounting staff.
It took the check 15 days to make it to our PO box!
It was mailed in the United States and delivered to a United States post office box.
And it took fifteen days to get to us.
Let’s break this down. Two holidays were in the mix, December 25 and January 1. That leaves 13 days. Let us take one day off in case the check was dropped in a mailbox after the pickup time. That leaves 12 days.
From December 20 to January 4, there were two weekends. I will assume the post office is too lazy to work on Saturday’s, so I’ll take another four days off. That leaves us eight days for first-class mail to travel from Texas to Florida.
That is unacceptable by any standard.
My mailboxes are stuffed full of junk mail. It seems like the post office has no problem delivering junk mail. But a first-class envelope seems to be too much trouble.
Remember the passports I started this post with?
Those were two sets of passports mailed on two different days using “Priority Mail”. It should be noted that a U.S. government agency – the passport office – used another quasi-government agency – the post office – to send me the passports. One would think that both U.S. agencies would know what happened to the passports.
Nope, neither could figure it out. All I ever got was that the mailman states he put them in the community mailbox in my neighborhood. You know the boxes with individual keys to each address.
What is worse is that neither agency seems to care that valid passports are floating around somewhere without anyone seeming to care. Terrorism anyone?
If two U.S agencies don’t care about passports, it is no wonder that my measly little checks do not even merit a slight glance from the U.S. Postal Service.
Yes, we did get our payment, but we lost a client in the process.
Why? Because the U.S. Postal Service delivers the worst possible service.